Thursday, January 31, 2008

God's Laundry Soap

Events in my own life and those of friends and family have reinforced in my mind the idea that God is in the process of preparing His "elect", his chosen people, to be ready to meet Him when he returns in the near future. (For those of you not familiar with Seventh-day Adventist teaching, this is what we call the doctrine of the Investigative or Pre-Advent Judgment).

The idea that God wants to cleanse His people before His return is found in many places in Scripture (the Day of Atonement-Leviticus 23; Cleansing the Sanctuary-Daniel 8; Robe of Righteousness-Zechariah 3; Isaiah 61:10; Ten Virgins-Matthew 25; Without Sin-Hebrews 9:26-28; Laodicea=Judgment-Revelation 3:14; Hour of Judgment-Revelation 14:7; Overcometh-Revelation 2,3,21; Close of Probation-Revelation 8:5 and 22:11). While many have focused on the "fear factor" of coming Judgment, whether before or at Christ's return, there is a positive message in this for us if we love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

I had never noticed until my attention was drawn to it recently, that Malachi 2:17-3:5 is another Old Testament reference to God's effort to cleanse and prepare us for His return. I really like this passage as it clarifies several things that people have gotten confused.

The entire book of Malachi is a call of love from God, regarding the false accusations being made against Him, and His true witness about our state of affairs. I recommend you read the entire book in one sitting, to get an overview of what it's saying. It's a short book, so it shouldn't take long.

The passage in Malachi 2:17-3:5 (chapter divisions are arbitrary) discusses how God is accused of allowing wickedness to continue without punishment. He responds that His professed followers are not ready for Him to come back in judgment. However, He is a refiner of silver, and like laundry soap. He wants to clean up our lives so we will give a pure offering to Him. Then He can come back and deal with the problem of sin. Note that we are the Spiritual Sons of Levi mentioned in the chapter, since we are to be Kings and Priests unto God (Revelation 1:6, 5:10).

I don't have to be afraid of the pre-Advent judgment, except in the sense of "Fear God and give glory to Him". If I love and reverence God enough to let Him remove sin from me-- to let Him be laundry soap and a refining fire in my life-- I have nothing to fear from the Judgment. In Malachi 3:17, God promises that those who speak often of His name will be remembered in His book, and will be His jewels when he returns. That's good news to me and I hope to you too.

"When He cometh, When He cometh
To make up His jewels
All the pure ones, all the bright ones
His loved and His own

Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning
They shall shine in their beauty
Bright gems for His crown"

"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)

God bless in your life as he refines you for His soon return, and as you work to "turn many to righteousness".


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reality Check

Early this morning I had one of those dreams that leaves you with more to think about after it is over. While it was in no way prophetic, I feel that it left me with truth that I need to share. Skipping all the strange unnecessary dream elements, the main part of the dream was about a woman approached by an angel who was extremely distressed by the lack of respect shown to "the baby/child" (Jesus). The angel told her she would receive visits every Sunday night. Thus a movement was started at the woman's home which later started a prominent evangelistic center in her town. Jesus visited these meetings which was very exciting to those attended. Then as happens in dreams I became one of the crowd at a meeting. I was skeptical that God was truly behind these meetings. To me Sunday didn't feel like God's first choice of a day to meet and angels don't interact with us in the way the angel met the woman. But then I told myself I wanted to be closer to Jesus and if this was Jesus...I cautiously reached out to touch his hand. The love felt so strong and real, it was hard to resist. Saying that this experience was false felt like turning and moving into the outer darkness.

When I awoke and pondered the dream I finally came to the conclusion that this is what it will be like in the days not far ahead of us. The delusion will be very strong as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:23-24. The love of the false Christ will feel so real. We must learn to walk by faith and not by sight and we must begin today. While I am not advocating a dry, formal religion neither can we accept any doctrine or leader that does not agree with the Bible. Feelings will be no more of an indication that we are in God's will than they were for Jesus on the cross.

Reality is also a problem for the people here in Selawik. Spiritual manifestations are common. A church member recently shared with Warren things that are seen by the villagers here as well as things he has seen personally. Our friend believes that these things are exactly what they appeared to be. This is a real challenge. Apparently Bible reading alone has not been enough to combat error here. Naturally we cannot say that these things are just imagined, yet we must find a way to show that not everything we see is what it seems. Please pray that we will have wisdom.

The great controversy between good and evil is strong and people need to know what is true and what is false. Are you becoming more grounded in the truth every day? Are you sharing truth with others in ways they understand?


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gospel with a Twisted Tongue

When we came here we understood that we would be doing cross- cultural ministry. So we were interested in learning Inupiaq their native language. However since resources are hard to get and there is no one here that we couldn't speak to in English it didn't seem essential. Still the first spring we were here, Warren got to talk to the Inupiaq teacher at the school and he invited us to come learn. We considered joining the class, but we weren't sure how the school would welcome home schoolers and adult sit-ins. Also we weren't sure when the class was held and where it would fit in our schedule. Gradually we forgot about it.

Then at potluck one Sabbath a couple months ago, the members were all talking in Inupiaq to each other. It seemed that maybe we should try to learn after all, so when Warren introduced me to the teacher at a party, I nudged him. The teacher, Louis Skin encouraged us again to attend. Thus in early December we started to study half an hour a day with one of the kindergarten classes. Warren and I alternate taking the girls so we both can learn.

Inupiaq has a 24 letter alphabet. All of the letters have only one sound, but many of the sounds are new to us and it is difficult for me to hear the difference between some of them. One friend has never learned Inupiaq and says he doesn't have the twisted tongue (His wife says "How can you be Inupiat and not speak Inupiaq?") There are two G's, three N's, and four L's . And some of them aren't the same as English, the T is really a D for example. The girls are doing well though. Abby learned the Inupiaq Pledge of Allegiance in just a few weeks.

I am glad we have finally taken this step, it is really bringing us closer to the people here. One neighbor is excited about our attempt to learn and gives us little vocabulary lessons. Louis tells the girls they will turn to Eskimos. I just wish it hadn't taken us two years to start. It is a good way to join in with the community and make new friends. Naturally, the people we know well are more likely to listen to us when we see opportunities than a stranger who comes to their door. I am learning so much more than Inupiaq, I am learning more of their culture as well. I must get to know the people and how they see the world if I want to share how I see the world. Are you out there share?



Monday, January 7, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Have you managed to keep any of your New Year's Resolutions, thus far?  Or did you even bother making them this year?  Making resolutions for personal improvement may be helpful, if only to help us keep track of our progress (or lack thereof) toward our personal goals.  But spiritual goals are also important.

Proverbs 24:16 reminds us that "a just person falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."  (Lest you be discouraged when you fall eight or more times, note that this is a symbolic number.  See Matthew 18:21-22).  Falling is part of the human condition, but rising up again is what sets apart the just (or righteous) person.  This seems to be a Bible pattern that might seem surprising at first glance.  Apparently, what distinguishes the righteous and the wicked in God's sight is their response when warned of their sin.  (Ezekiel 3:19-21 seems to describe this well).

Psalm 40:2 reminds us that though we cannot rise up again by our own strength, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."  Jesus is the one who God set up to "give repentance to Israel" (Acts 5:31).  (See also 2 Timothy 2:25).  So even the ability to repent (that is, to "turn around again" and go in the right way) is a gift of God.  What distinguishes the righteous then, is only our choice to accept the gift of repentance, and forgiveness which has been given us.

Once we accept the gift of repentance and forgiveness, God not only brings us out of the "horrible pit" we have fallen into, but sets our feet on the rock of a renewed life in him, so we need not fall again.  However, lest we be discouraged, 1 John 2:1 reminds us, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."  God wants us to see the pattern of things in our lives that lead us to fall, and learn to trust Him for strength to stay on the rock where He has placed us, so we don't fall again.  But if we do fall, He is there to pull us out again.

We fall far too often, it is true.  Yet we need to trust God's plan for our recovery.  "Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ"  (Philippians 1:6).  Like Paul, I pray that we all may be strengthened inwardly by God's Spirit so that Jesus will live in our hearts by faith.  This is the way that we all can understand the love of Christ, which is beyond our understanding.  This is how we can be filled with the fullness of God.  God is able to do much more than we ask Him to, or think He is able to accomplish.  It will be to His glory for us to overcome our inherited and developed tendencies to sin.  (Ephesians 3:16-21)

Just as we encourage and lift up our daughter Miriam when she stumbles, God doesn't give up on us.  Keep rising up-- in God's strength.